In case you missed this week’s announcement of the transition beginning at Saddleback church in California: Pastor Rick Warren announced that he will be stepping down from his role as Senior pastor there once a replacement has been found. From a practical point of view this is not surprising. He and his wife Kay have given over 42 years of their lives serving not only their church and its many campuses but also countless outreach ministries around the world. Yet the thought of them leaving their role as voices of calm in the storm of our ongoing American culture wars brings a sadness to my heart. I pray only the best for them both and their family as they seek God’s next step. Too many times we only realize how much leaders need our prayers after an embarrassing public failure or financial scandal. Why not join together and pray that the leadership at Saddleback will have the grace and wisdom to find the person or persons to fill the role of a future lead pastor? If you would like to hear more about this coming transition beyond just the headlines, I am posting Pastor Rick’s video here. I found it both quite interesting and encouraging.
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— Colossians 4:3 ESV
Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, Acts 6:3-4 ESV
If you hadn’t read the beginning of this chapter you might think that these guys were being selected to be missionaries, teachers of theology or pastors of large churches. But in fact, they were picked to serve food at the tables of widows. They were in charge of a first century “Meals on wheels”! We rarely stop to think that ministry is so mundane and unspiritual. But the early church considered feeding widows and supplying the needs of the poor as the front-line duties of the leadership. When these so-called “unspiritual duties” were neglected by the apostles, the entire church began to complain. Notice they didn’t complain about the lack of sermons or the rarity of miracles. They got mad because no one went to feed the elderly widows. The church felt that the most important ministry was to act as the family to the widow and as mothers and fathers for orphans.
When we are ready to help with for the most needed ministry in our local church, we just might be amazed to see what happens next!
Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…Acts 6:7
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Psalm 85:6 ESV
During the pandemic many of us began to get just a small taste of the loneliness that those living in long term care face daily. During the height of the lockdowns people rarely left home and when forced to go out, there was both social distancing, as well as the wearing of masks making everyone seem anonymous. Some of us dealt with the isolation by watching endless reruns, others rearranged the furniture or put together 1,000-piece puzzles. While these activities distracted us for a while, our problem was that God created us for community. We were created to share life together. Now, after more than a year of social separation many of us have forgotten how to connect. The good news is that God has a restoration plan. Notice that today’s reading focuses on the word “Us”. Just as the Lord’s Prayer begins with, “Our Father”. This Psalm of David begins with the cry, “Revive us!”
His prayer reminds me of a story my father told me of his time in the war. During the invasion of Anzio his landing craft was hit with a bomb. His ship exploded and he along with everyone on aboard were thrown into the sea. Dad only remembered beginning to swim and then losing consciousness. Later he woke up on the beach with a severe head wound. His unit had been separated by death and destruction, and yet his healing took place in a hospital, surrounded by other people. That is what God has for us today as well. He has a plan to revive and restore each one of us. No bombs that have separated us in this battle can destroy God’s plan. If we put our trust in Him, our wounds will heal and by His grace we can rejoice together again!